James Doohan - Military Service

Military Service

At the beginning of the Second World War, Doohan joined the Royal Canadian Artillery. He was commissioned a lieutenant in the 13th Field Artillery Regiment of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division. Doohan went to England in 1940 for training. His first combat was the invasion of Normandy at Juno Beach on D-Day. Shooting two snipers, Doohan led his men to higher ground through a field of anti-tank mines, where they took defensive positions for the night. Crossing between command posts at 11:30 that night, Doohan was hit by six rounds fired from a Bren gun by a nervous Canadian sentry: four in his leg, one in the chest, and one through his right middle finger. The bullet to his chest was stopped by a silver cigarette case. His right middle finger had to be amputated, something he would conceal during his career as an actor.

Doohan trained as a pilot (graduating from Air Observation Pilot Course 40 with 11 other Canadian artillery officers), and flew Taylorcraft Auster Mark V aircraft for 666 (AOP) Squadron, RCAF, as a Royal Canadian Artillery officer in support of 1st Army Group Royal Canadian Artillery. All three Canadian (AOP) RCAF Squadrons were manned by Artillery Officer-pilots and accompanied by non-commissioned RCA and RCAF personnel serving as observers.

Although never actually a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force, Doohan was once labelled the "craziest pilot in the Canadian Air Force." A story from his flying years tells of Doohan slaloming a plane – variously cited as a Hurricane or a jet trainer – between mountainside telegraph poles to prove it could be done, which earned him a serious reprimand. (The actual feat was performed in a Mark IV Auster on the Salisbury Plain north of RAF Andover in the late spring of 1945).

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